I am not a meat puppet- Incarnation Living

Have you ever thought of yourself as a soul taking your body for a drive? I call this “meat puppet” theology, and it isn’t healthy.There is some incidental foul language in my post this week because of an embedded link from a popular science website. 

We spend much of our time and effort trying to “put things in perspective.” The problem is that a perspective is not objective or universally true. There are always a variety of perspectives to choose from.

Perspective, according to Mirriam Webster, simply means a particular attitude or way of viewing something. Sometimes we can choose the wrong perspective and it can have a profoundly negative impact on our life. The above example, viewing humanity through the lens of “meat puppets” or “ghost driving meat covered skeletons” has been liked by over 60,000 people on Facebook and shared over 20,000. This perspective is clearly popular! But it is a harmful perspective.

IFL, I F**king Love Science is a page full of “sciencey coolness,” and interesting discoveries.  I know the language may offend some of my readers (I apologize but I cannot censor the direct link embeds). It is meant in the exuberant exultant, this is so cool, science is amazing way. I follow this page because science is AWESOME!  I love learning about the wonderful things we can observe and learn about creation. IFL is a catchall for some of the coolest innovations as well as the merely fascinating like The Science of Why Bacon Smells Good. The blog also posts scientific studies that address critical issues such as mental health. I particularly liked this post about the negative effects of mental illness; mental illness is more likely to cut your life short than heavy smoking.

The problem is that IFL is not just dedicated to showing the coolness of science. They are also promoting a worldview that embraces rationalism. Rationalism is a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response. The problems that stem from rationalism are not immediately apparent. After all, reason is good thing and so is knowledge. Yet the idea that reason and knowledge can be divorced from our emotions and our body is made absurd in the practice of human life.
What’s wrong with this post about ghost driving meat covered skeletons made of stardust? It promotes the idea that we are meat puppets. Meat puppets are machines that our consciousness drives around. Why is meat puppetry bad?
There are several things dangerous about thinking humans are meat puppets:

  1. Meat puppetry rejects the true incarnate nature of humanity
  2. It promotes viewing the body as a machine, and detracts from holistic living


I will address each of these in the coming weeks as I’ve chosen to devote quite a bit of my blog this summer to the topic of Incarnation, but today I will focus on the incarnate nature of humanity.

What is Incarnation?

Incarnate means not just having a human body (a meat puppet driven by a brain), Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines incarnate as being invested with both human form and nature.

Incarnation then is

1 a (1) :  the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (2) capitalized :  the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

To put it simply Incarnation is the union of mind, or consciousness (or ghost as the IFL meme puts it) with the body. The fullness of being human requires both the mind and the body. The mind depends upon the body, and the body depends on the mind.

The Word was present at the beginning of creation. In him was the light  of all humanity, yet the Word, became incarnate and put on flesh, to become Jesus Christ to live and die as one of us. Then he was bodily resurrected to continue his teaching, before ASCENDING STILL INCARNATE, still in flesh, back into heaven. Jesus Christ, incarnate is present in the Godhead, the Trinity, the 3 in 1.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 Incarnation vs. Meat Puppet View in light of Scripture

If we were meat puppets, or ghosts driving meat covered skeletons, why would the second person of the Trinity, come down from heaven, and take on flesh. Flesh is IMPORTANT to God. What’s more, human flesh now sits enthroned in heaven. If the only important thing were our human consciousness then surely Jesus would have shed his body to ascend into heaven.

Our bodies are important to God, and they are important to us. I look forward to delving more into what it means to be more than a meat puppet for God. If you have any topics, questions or thought about what it means to live incarnate, comment below.  For the next post I will be talking more specifically about the Incarnation of Jesus, “Jesus was not a meat puppet.”


Christian Response to The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins Straw Man

Every Christian needs to be ready with a Christian Response to The God Delusion. Why? Richard Dawkins’ name is often invoked as the reason why Christianity has been debunked. In The God DelusionDawkins constructs an elaborate argument to put social pressure on people to become atheists. Yet his whole argument rests on a “straw man” version of Christianity that bears little resemblance to Christianity. If we are equipped with a Christian Response to The God Delusion, not only will our faith not flag, we may plant a seed that weakens an atheists antagonism to the gospel. That is, after all the heart of what apologetics ministry is.

Richard Dawkins Straw Man ChristianityToday’s posting features my debunking of Dawkins’ argument with liberal aid from Alister McGrath and Johanna Collicutt McGrath’s, The Dawkins DelusionI encourage you to read on. You, dear reader, will one day face the challenge that Dawkins has shown God is a megalomaniac, jealous, fanatic who is ridiculous to believe in. This post will equip you to answer that charge.

Continue reading

Love is an Open Door: theology from Frozen

What do apologetics, evangelism and Disney’s “Frozen” have in common? Love! Most people would say fairy tale love has nothing to do with the gospel love of Christ, but as I jammed out in the car to the Frozen Soundtrack with my, soon to be 2, little girl, I picked up on some words in one song that sparked this post.

The song can be viewed in all its quirky glory here:

Love is an Open Door – Frozen Clip on Disney Video

Spoiler Alert:

Hans is not her True Love! In fact, he’s using her to get to the crown. So should we just chuck the song as the dreams of a naive girl soon to be dashed…No

Check out this particular lyric:

“Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door”

The Love described here is a healing love. Perhaps that’s why we as a generation are all chasing love like crazy, at earlier and earlier ages. We are looking for a romantic love to complete us, and heal our pain. But as Anna found out, and our divorce statistics reflect, rushing into this kind of romantic love isn’t working! It’s not healing us! It’s causing further harm by stealing childhoods, early and unsupported pregnancies, quickie divorces etc…

Does that mean a true healing love doesn’t exist? On the contrary; it does! It was exemplified by Jesus’s actions on the cross. God scandalously came to live and die as one of us because HE LOVES HIS CREATION. God wants us to be in right relationship with Him, to “Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door.”

A romantic relationship that is quirky, wonderful and healing does exist. My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We met working for Disney and have survived my losing my mother to a quick battle with Pancreatic Cancer, separation due to military service, and general family dysfunction. But we thrive because we recognize that our love is only a reflection of the love God has for us. The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an inherently relational God.

We hunger for relationship because we are created in God’s image. Right relationships are founded in sacrificial love, as Jesus demonstrated to us.

Thomas Long: The Witness of preachingTaking this ethic of “love is an open door” deeper into apologetics and theology…

Thomas Long in his book The Witness of Preachingtalks about sermon illustrations as being more than just a window to look in at the gospel. Unfortunately, if the window is dim, dirty, poor, or opaque people focus on the window and not the view beyond. A sermon illustration should not seek to be not a window to glimpse the biblical text and truth through. Rather, a sermon illustration should be an “open door” which invites our hearers into the biblical text.

I’m going to amplify Long here, and say that not just for preaching but for apologetics and evangelism, our whole lives should be open doors which invite people in to the biblical truth that Jesus’s death on the cross means that love really is an open door.

To read more about living a love that invites people to know God you can go back to my previous post Love/Hate Relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love.

For some more reflection about the theology of Frozen you should check out these other blogs:

This one reflects on some of the more problematic theological elements from Elsa http://epictheology.com/2014/05/12/faith-and-film-frozen/

A reflection on the transfiguration that occurs from love http://abroadplace1.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/love-is-an-open-door-why-i-love-frozen/

This one highlights the sacrificial love of the sisters as a type of Christ’s love http://marianninja.blogspot.com/2014/01/do-you-want-to-build-snowman-sanguines.html

Love/hate relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love

faith, hope, love

Image credit: mercyrains @deviant art

I’m pretty sick of love. Not all love, but the love that says…We just need to love people…The greatest of these is love, so that’s ALL we need to do ….pardon me if I lovingly gag. Love without faith and hope is a pretty pitiful thing that amounts to no more than tolerance. Allow me to explain more fully…

My gut negative reaction to this Scripture comes not from the words themselves, but the way people have chosen to apply them.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says this, according to the NIV translation, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” You can check out other translations here,  but every translation describes love as being the greatest, greater, or best. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, Love is the best….What’s wrong is the way we then APPLY it.

In our Western world, Good is Ok, but I want only the BEST. We chuck out everything else, and focus exclusively on what is the greatest. I would argue that this is dangerous, and harms Christian practice. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14), Love without faith and hope is sickly and anemic. I argue, it ceases to be love at all, and is nothing more than tolerance.

Wikipedia tells us love is a virtue of “benevolent concern for the good of another.” Yet what is good for another? Take the hypotehtical, yet very real, example of Jane. Jane is a drug addicted homeless person, panhandling for money. What is more loving, to give her money, or to not? To engage her or ignore her?

What is good for Jane? The real answer is for Jane to be motivated and empowered to change her life and circumstances that contribute to/led to the addiction, and to be healed of her addiction. Yet that is hard, and frankly most of us don’t hold much hope for that…So we do one of three things: 1. give her money, say God Bless you, and hope she spends it on food and not drugs. 2. Give her no money and tell her to get her act together. 3.  Fiddle with our cell phone/radio knobs and ignore her. Are any of these really loving? Probably not…Why?

We’ve equated loving with being nice to people. So perhaps giving money is nice, but it wasn’t loving if it enabled Jane to further self harm and took her farther away from God’s purposes. Telling her to get her act together might be decribed as tough love, but it denies the real systematic issues that may be preventing her from just pulling her act together. Ignoring her may be seen then as the easy way, I’m not helping, I’m not harming. Yet this might be the most harmful of all. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? Crossing the street didn’t solve anything. When we just ignore people like Jane, we deny that they are our neighbor, and that they are a person created in God’s image. We ignore them because we have no faith, or hope that there can be any change in the situation.

St. Augustine wrote a Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love, and described the relation of faith and love thusly:

” Now this is the true faith of Christ which the apostle commends: faith that works through love. And what it yet lacks in love it asks that it may receive, it seeks that it may find, and knocks that it may be opened unto it.246 For faith achieves what the law commands fides namque impetrat quod lex imperat. And, without the gift of God–that is, without the Holy Spirit, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts–the law may bid but it cannot aid jubere lex poterit, non juvare.”[1]

Our faith works through our love and love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The logic “we just have to love people” is a lie, or at best only a partial truth. Our love is an outworking of our faith and hope in a God that truly changes things and heals hearts and minds.

I too am guilty of treating the “Janes” I come across without really engaging in relationship building. Yet I am praying that God will help me love the seemingly unlovable. As it gets hotter and hotter here in South Florida, I’m keeping bottles of water to give to those I meet. Another good idea is to keep hygiene kits to distribute directly, or donate to shelters, a list of what to include can be found here.

[1] Augustine’s Enchiridion Chapter 31, point 117. Found online here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm#C31




Adventures in Ministry, Fundraising, and Humility

Who am I? and Why am I asking you for money, and fundraising?

I am the loving wife of a United States Coast Guard service member, Will Dugger.

I am the devoted mother of, one soon to be 2 years old little girl.

I am a candidate to the Holy orders of Priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I am a wife and mother called to ordained ministry to increase the faith, hope and love of Christ in the world. I was lost, but now am found and I want to share the Good News, and healing, that I found in college at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation, to the whole world.

My call to ministry:

My call to ministry began in the wonderful Christian Formation process at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation. After a turbulent childhood, I arrived at Purdue University a deeply wounded person. I was invited to attend an event at Wesley Foundation, and over the next 4 years, they became the tangible arms of God. They fully embraced me, even through my weird purple hair phase. Pastors Glen and Lana Robyne patiently answered my questions, not easy ones either, but things like the problem of evil and suffering in the world, and perceived Biblical inconsistencies.

Over 4 years, I was taught, for the first time, both in word and deed what it meant to be a Christian. I was baptized my Junior year. My senior year of college, I began attending a group that explored a “Call to Ministry.” Over a series of mission trips, retreats, and Wednesday night devotions that I led, I realized God wanted to use me to be a means of healing and reconciliation to wounded and broken people. The time was not yet ripe for me to enter into ministry, however, and I sensed a “Wait upon the Lord.”

So, when I graduated from Purdue in 2007, I was somewhat at loose ends, and deeply nervous. As it turns out there was a reason for my time of wait. My very first call to ministry, was my own broken and wounded family. My family, in very brief, had been torn apart by separations, fighting, mental illness, neglect and abuse. Yet, the beginning seeds of reconciliation had already been planted. Shortly after our first family Christmas in years, my mother was hospitalized. In January 2008, my mother was diagnosed with terminal, Pancreatic Cancer. She died that April. In so short a time, a lot goes through a family system. I was able to share the peace of Christ that I found at Wesley Foundation, and had continued finding at Church of the Messiah, in Winter Garden, FL. My mother and I had many talks about God, leading up to her final days. She died reconciled to God. She had left over Scientific doubts and personal turmoil. In her final days she received last rites from Father Richard Borden. He and Messiah’s youth minister, at the time, Anne Matthew’s came and ministered to my family. My father was able to talk to a priest for hours. I cannot say exactly what happened, except the work of God. My mother’s death became the catalyst for a time of turmoil, but also a time of healing. My sister found faith and was baptized in July of 2009, and my Dad began attending church with me whenever he was in town.

My husband, Will Dugger and I also met during this time of waiting, that wasn’t really waiting at all. He and his family, have incredible devotion to God, and the Episcopal Church. They walked alongside my family through my mother’s dying, and embraced us with the more love and compassion than I could have ever expected or imagined. We were married April 18th, 2009, just shy of one year after my mother’s passing.

The time of waiting, that wasn’t waiting at all, but was ministry to, in and for my family had come to a close, and I sensed God telling me, “OK, now!” I began to work with Father Tom, of Church of the Messiah to discern what a calling to ministry meant for me. The surprising answer was priesthood!

I entered the process of discernment in the Episcopal Church, and was affirmed and uplifted. I began seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary, in the Fall of 2010. For my first two years I had almost a full scholarship, and was working at Church of the Messiah as well, first as an intern, and then as Children’s Minister. Into every well laid out plan, a little turmoil inevitably ensues. My plan to graduate with my Masters in Divinity in 3 years, and become ordained was thrown off. God’s timeline included the birth of our wonderful daughter in 2012. My husband entered the military in 2012 as well. Up until now, our household had required 2 incomes. He entered the military, making a great sacrifice, so that we would have the economic freedom for me to “just” attend seminary full time, and stay home with our daughter. Thus my “3 year plan” became a 4 ½ year adventure. Part of balancing the calls of wife (and a military wife at that), mother, and priesthood meant that our original plan, me transferring for my final year of seminary at an Episcopal, had to be rethought.

By the graciousness of my Bishop Greg Brewer, I was allowed to complete my M.Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary, and conduct my Anglican Year of studies as a distance student at Nashotah.

So where do you come in?

Much of my scholarships and diocesan support are set up on the assumption that you will complete your studies in three years and remain a full time student year round, including summers and January term.

I chose to take the Summer I gave birth off. I spent it getting to know this wonderful daughter the Lord knit together in my womb, and reweaving our family after my husband’s boot camp experience. This time off resulted in my school support dropping by almost $10K. We soldiered on, making up the deficit with loans.

Now as I approach the end of my seminary career, I need your support. Because I’m dual enrolled at Asbury to finish my Master’s in Divinity this summer, and Nashotah House, to do my Anglican Studies, I’m maxed out on the amount of federal loans I can take out in a year, and there is still a shortfall. Hence, the fundraising.

God is not telling me to wait, however. Through the prayers and discernment of my Bishop, Father Tom, Father Bob with whom I’ve served as an intern at St. Benedict’s in South Florida, where my husband is stationed, I’ve sensed God’s call to complete the work he has begun in me. This sprint to the finish is a financial challenge, but God’s timing is perfect. The diocese has stepped up their support of me by $3500.

I have never before asked for financial support from my congregation and my greater church family, but I need to now. Will you be instrumental in completing the good work that God has begun in my life? First and foremost, PRAY! Not everyone is called to give, but EVERYONE can pray! Pray that the means to cover the finances will be provided.

If in your prayers you discern God calling you to part of His means for my financial provision, then please GIVE with a cheerful heart. You can do so by going to this website, http://www.gofundme.com/funding-seminary

I hope that by hearing my story your faith that Christ is Risen! and at work in the world has been strengthened.

God Bless you,

2217_696464881768_7561_nTracy (Bridge)Dugger